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Wednesday, Dec. 15, 2010

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Fight for first place: Manchester United's Wayne Rooney (left) vies for the ball with Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny on Monday night. Man United won 1-0. AP PHOTO

Man United moves into first place with win over Arsenal

MANCHESTER, England (AP) Manchester United went two points clear at the top of the Premier League after Park Ji Sung's 41st-minute goal gave Alex Ferguson's side a 1-0 victory in the high-stakes game with Arsenal at Old Trafford on Monday.

United was the better side throughout and would have won by a more handsome margin had Wayne Rooney not missed a 73rd-minute penalty after Gael Clichy had handled inside the area.

Arsenal, which started the game at the top, failed to sparkle and struggled to test the United defense.

United never looked troubled once it took control with Park's sixth goal of the season four minutes before halftime, a clever header from Nani's deflected cross.

Ferguson praised Park's performance and admitted the midfielder will be missed when he links up with South Korea for the 2011 Asian Cup tournament in Qatar in January.

"He's in fantastic form and we lose him after Dec. 26 for the Asian Cup for seven matches which is disappointing," Ferguson said.

"Arsenal came back in the second half and pegged us back, but we had some good chances on the counter attack and deserved the victory."

Arsenal gave a Premier League debut to 20-year-old Poland keeper Wojciech Szczesny and he made some crucial saves, including a spectacular stop to deny Rooney in the 85th minute, but United still prevailed.

The match was seen by some as a chance for Arsenal, which has not won a trophy since 2005, to prove its title credentials, but manager Arsene Wenger insisted the team's supporters should not lose hope.

"It's a big frustration, a big disappointment," he said. "What's important is that we bounce back in the next game against Stoke on Saturday.

"After what I've seen tonight, there's no reason not to believe."

The match between two of the Premier League's powerhouses was watched at Old Trafford by a capacity crowd including 23 of the Chilean miners who were rescued in October, as well as United's former midfielder David Beckham.

They were not treated to a classic as both sides struggled to create clear-cut chances.

Allardyce dismissed

BLACKBURN , England (AP) Sam Allardyce has been fired as manager of Blackburn, the Premier League club said Monday.

Venky's Group, the club's new Indian owners, made the announcement a day after Blackburn lost 2-1 at Bolton, its third loss in five matches which left the team in 13th place in the standings.

"We have taken this decision as part of our wider plans and ambitions for the club," Venky's said in a statement released by the club.

The 56-year-old Allardyce, who was hired as manager in December 2008, said he was "very shocked and disappointed" to have been dismissed.

"I am extremely proud to have managed this club and I enjoyed a fantastic relationship with the players, my staff and the supporters during my time in charge," he added in a statement released by the League Managers Association.

He is the second managerial departure in the Premier League this season, following Newcastle's sacking of Chris Hughton a week ago.

Allardyce's assistant, Neil McDonald, has also been fired, with current first-team coach Steve Kean taking temporary charge until a replacement is found.

The dismissal of former Bolton and Newcastle manager Allardyce came as a surprise.

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